“SNL” alum Piscopo blasted the sketch featuring the porn star on Fox Business: “What do I tell my kids?”
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To many in the capital, the pornographic film actress has become an unexpected force. But those who know her well view the moment differently.
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“Grab ’em by the p—y” was only the beginning. From the special counsel investigation into Russia’s election meddling to the porn star who refuses to be silenced, a whiplashing — and never-ending —string of scandals trail after Donald Trump.
Here’s a look back at some of Trump’s biggest controversies since launching his presidential campaign in June 2015.
The president is embroiled in special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election — a probe that has gradually been closing in on Trump’s inner circle. Democrats and other critics have called for Trump’s impeachment over the alleged collusion, and for the president’s alleged obstruction of the Mueller probe. The president has repeatedly denied accusations of collusion and obstruction.
‘Very Fine People’ in Charlottesville
Last August, Trump stirred a firestorm of lingering criticism for his comments blaming “both sides” for the deadly violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“You look at both sides – I think there’s blame on both sides, and I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either,” Trump said of the clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters, which ultimately resulted in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer. He also repeatedly said there were some “very fine people” on both sides.
Critics said Trump did not go far enough in condemning white supremacy, but he stood by his comments and even doubled down on them in the weeks that followed.
Just days after the president was inaugurated on Jan. 20, the nonprofit legal watchdog group CREW filed a lawsuit alleging that Trump’s business dealings violated a constitutional provision prohibiting officeholders from accepting “emoluments or presents” from foreign governments.
Democratic Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison and other critics have said that Trump should be impeached for violating the clause.
“I mean, on day one he was – on day one he was in violation of the Emoluments Clause,” Ellison said last February. “This is a part of the Constitution that says as the president you can’t get payments from a foreign power. The day people checked into his hotel and started paying him, who were foreign dignitaries, he was in violation of that law.”
Since then, Trump has continued to promote his hotels and golf courses. And the sons to whom he turned over operations of the family business—Don Jr. and Eric—have been criticized for mixing official business with company business. Government watchdogs faulted Don Jr.’s recent trip to India to promote a Trump condominium project and give a foreign-policy speech as “Trump’s company is literally selling access to the president’s son overseas,” according to The Washington Post.
President Trump on Tuesday fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a surprise Twitter announcement. Just two weeks earlier, White House communications director Hope Hicks handed in her resignation after Trump reportedly “berated” her for telling the House Intelligence Committee she had told “white lies” for the president. A source told PEOPLE at the time that “she had enough.” Those are just the latest oustings in a long line of resignations and firings that include White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who resigned after accusations of domestic abuse from both of his ex-wives came to light (Porter has denied the allegations); Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, who resigned amid a scandal involving his use of private jets to travel for government business; and chief strategist Steve Bannon, who was fired not long after Charlottesville, as Trump faced mounting pressure to remove the controversial alt-right figure from his staff.
As a private citizen, Trump frequently criticized then-President Barack Obama for his golfing habits.
But according to Politifact’s Trump Golf Tracker, the president has already far outpaced Obama in the amount of time he spends on the green. As of Dec. 28 in the first year of both men’s presidencies, Trump played golf 84 times to Obama’s 26, at a cost of at least $ 42,493,519 to taxpayers.
In the wake of the devastation in Puerto Rico from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Trump visited the U.S. territory and sparked backlash by tossing rolls of paper towels to a crowd of survivors. Critics, including San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, called the moment “abominable” and insensitive.
Caught on Tape: Boasting About Sexual Assault
In early October 2016, The Washington Post published a now infamous Access Hollywood tape revealing Trump boasting to Billy Bush in 2005 about sexually assaulting women.
“Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” he said in the 2005 conversation. “Grab ’em by the p—y.”
Shortly after the recording was leaked, Trump acknowledged his comments and apologized for them, but then went on to repeatedly dismiss the remarks as “locker room talk.”
A year later, in November 2017, The New York Times reported that Trump had claimed the leaked tape was fabricated — prompting Access Hollywood to remind the world that the tape was “very real.”
“We wanted to clear something up that has been reported across the media landscape,” host Natalie Morales said on the show at the time. “Let us make this perfectly clear — the tape is very real. Remember his excuse at the time was ‘locker-room talk.’ He said every one of those words.”
In the weeks that followed the Access Hollywood scandal, multiple women alleged on the record that Trump had touched, grabbed or kissed them without their permission.
Over the course of his campaign, more than 10 would come forward, including former PEOPLE writer Natasha Stoynoff, who alleged that Trump attacked her at Mar-a-Lago during a 2005 interview. Trump has denied all of the allegations.
Though Trump has thus far avoided consequences for his alleged actions, Stoynoff told PEOPLE in February, “I feel this issue has been ‘on hold’ all year, but not forgotten. It’s been simmering on the stove with the lid on, like a pressure cooker. But now the heat’s on and it’s going to boil and the lid is going to blast off.”
The sexual misconduct claims continued to dog Trump after his election, and dominated headlines again when accuser Summer Zervos, a former contestant on Trump’s reality TV series The Apprentice, sued Trump for defamation just days before his January 2017 inauguration.
Zervos, who alleged Trump kissed her very aggressively and put his hand on her breast without her consent in 2007, argued in the suit that he defamed her and other accusers by calling their claims “lies” and “total fabrication.”
Trump’s lawyers have so far managed to keep the case from going to trial. The Washington Post reported on Feb. 13 that a New York judge was expected to rule “any day” on whether the case should proceed.
RELATED VIDEO: PEOPLE Writer Natasha Stoynoff Breaks Silence, Accuses Donald Trump of Sexual Attack
Alleged Affairs with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal
On Jan. 12, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen had arranged a $ 130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016 so she’d keep quiet about an alleged sexual relationship she had with Trump in July 2006 — less than four months after Trump’s wife, Melania, gave birth to their son, Barron, now 11.
Cohen and the White House have denied the allegation of an affair, with a Trump official telling the Wall Street Journal in January: “These are old, recycled reports, which were published and strongly denied prior to the election.”
After initially denying that such a payment had been made, Cohen later admitted to paying Daniels $ 130,000 out of his own pocket just days before the 2016 election. He called the payment a “private transaction” and said it didn’t violate any campaign finance laws. A recent Wall Street Journal report said Cohen later complained to friends that he hadn’t been reimbursed for the payment.
Daniels is still fighting to tell her story. The New York Times reported Monday that Daniels’ lawyer sent a letter to Cohen offering to return the $ 130,000 payment in exchange for dissolving a so-called “hush agreement.”
But now Trump’s lawyers are reportedly considering legal action to stop 60 Minutes from airing an interview with Daniels that’s slated to air March 18.
Daniel isn’t the only one who allegedly had an affair with the president in 2006.
The report detailed an elaborate coverup system Trump allegedly set up to hide and protect his extramarital affairs before his presidency, claiming he used “clandestine hotel-room meetings, payoffs, and complex legal agreements to keep affairs — sometimes multiple affairs he carried out simultaneously — out of the press.”
Trump’s campaign denied he had an affair with McDougal when it was first reported in 2016.
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I first saw Israeli-Canadian painter Melanie Daniel’s work in Echo Shield, her 2012 solo show at Asya Geisberg gallery. I had a frustrating experience with it: it was interesting work which I liked and wanted to write about. But I lacked the conceptual framework to describe what I was seeing.
Here’s the title piece from that show.
Melanie Daniel, Echo Shield, 2012, oil on canvas, 67″x67″
I thought about this painting for a long time; long enough to teach myself how to speak about it. It is visually dense, but it is also conceptually dense. Its patterning and crowding give it an air of anxiety, of a tooth-grinding tension so intense as to have reached the point of paralysis. This overtone informs the many-layered content. On an explicit level, the satellite dishes raise the topics of telecommunication, signals, and surveillance. There are two dishes on the lower left, but the center of the image is also a dish – the receiver thrusts forward out of the image plane, and the dish itself lies behind. But it is not a dish alone; the Arabic script and black and blue pattern are indicative of the interior of the dome of a mosque. Daniel has produced one of those strange dream-unifications, a mosque-dome/satellite-dish which does not cease to be either thing. The fine filigree of high contrast fields throughout the piece – the swarming tiles, and zig-zags, and fence on the center left, and jumbled debris in the northwest corner – answer to the calligraphic qualities of the Arabic architecture Daniel quotes, but also to the landscape of Israel itself. Israel is an arid land. In its agricultural areas, it is given to fields where each clod of earth casts its own dark little shadow upon the sunbaked soil. The Israeli landscape can be painfully sharp in precisely the packed, high-contrast way Daniel catches in the painting.
The cumulative effect, then, is of an Israeli in anguish over the present and future of Israel. Her vision of the very constituent parts of the state is in flux, but whichever version of its identity she turns to, she finds the same unyielding, parched array. She has run out of comfort.
Step forward two years to Lotus Eaters, her new solo at Asya Geisberg, and what do we find? As the title suggests, a loosening of approach has taken place. The new title painting is as follows.
Melanie Daniel, Lotus Eater, 2014, oil on canvas, 27″x26″
Observe how Daniel personalizes the Greek myth of the lotus eaters, whose diet stupefied them in a dreamy state. The overpacked world of Echo Shield is referenced in the bottom third of the painting, but it is transformed here into a seething plant life, a loose evocation of the lotuses in question. The dreamer lies above them. Above him is a virtually empty pink sky, the relaxed world of the dream. Daniel no longer seeks resolution inside of the anxious world she painted before. She rephrases that world as the food of dreams, and takes refuge in a space apart, a personal space.
A personal space composed of dreams and memories forms the basis for most of the work in the show. Consider Sky’s Low Silver.
Melanie Daniel, Sky’s Low Silver, 2014, oil on canvas, 51″x59″
Two human figures, one of them a ghost, and a dog, stand on the shore of a pond. Across the pond is a phantasmagoric forest and an uncanny aurora of a sky, formed from inverted drips. Daniel displays the horror vacui characteristic of her earlier work, but as in Lotus Eater, she partly undoes it, with the loosened foreground field and the nearly featureless upper sky. As with Lotus Eater, these reduced regions provide breathing room. We can relax into a sense of the magic of an evening by the pond. This magic is aligned strongly with memory; such magic is almost never experienced in the moment, almost always in recollection of a particularly profound evening.
The continued unreality of Daniel’s system of representation, even as her subjects of representation become more familiar, raises a topic I think is worth mentioning.
Daniel has walked back from the brink of mania and stasis which threatened to consume her in Echo Shield. But as an artist, there is never any going backward from anything. There is only forward. Daniel’s new focus on the simple pleasures of personal experience – pleasures so simple as to be virtually universal – would analytically tend to suggest her means of expression should move toward the classical as well. And yet we find her landscapes, and lines, and colors, as strange as ever.
Melanie Daniel, Pale Boy and Stick, 2014, oil on canvas, 34″x40″
How recognizable this scene is! Shirtless summer heat, and that intense concentration of youth which does not notice the awkward position the body folds into, and the joys of finding really good sticks. These are elemental things, easily forgotten and easily recalled. And yet they take place here in a land of purple and red marks, of blue grounds, of absurd hot pink touches and green fragments – they take place in a new stage, in fact, of Daniel’s own universe of swirling fragments and beckoning spaces.
We see in this that art is both opposed to time, and like time. Art can return pieces of the irretrievable past to us. But in its making, the artist is constrained to build upon what has come before. She cannot revert. When she reconstitutes the past, she can only use the materials of the present. This conflict between the grasping for the past, and the impositions of the present, takes place in much art, but it is central to Lotus Eaters, because Daniel cannot help stylizing her work so radically; and because her clarity of vision so gently but totally converts that stylization into a natural means of returning to the peace she has been without for such a long time.
September 4 – October 11, 2014
Asya Geisberg Gallery
537B West 23rd Street,
New York, NY 10011